Local restaurant owners are saying “anything helps” after the province announced it is providing $5 million to restaurants struggling under the code red pandemic response system.

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Local restaurant owners are saying "anything helps" after the province announced it is providing $5 million to restaurants struggling under the code red pandemic response system.

Province announces $5-M program to help restaurants with code-red delivery costs

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On Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister announced the $5-million Dine-in Restaurant Relief Program aimed at helping restaurants hit hard by code-red restrictions. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)						</p>
On Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister announced the $5-million Dine-in Restaurant Relief Program aimed at helping restaurants hit hard by code-red restrictions. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Posted: 11:59 AM Dec. 22, 2020

The Progressive Conservative government is providing $5 million to restaurants that have been hard hit by recent code-red restrictions.

The money will be given to dine-in establishments that have had to transform their businesses to a meal-delivery service model due to public health orders.

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"Anything that helps restaurants right now is necessary and it’s a win," said Jay Kilgour, owner of Fionn MacCool’s. "I think we’ve been waiting for something like this. It doesn’t solve our problems, but everything about it is positive."

The Pallister government is giving the funds to the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce to develop a program that provides relief to dine-in restaurants that are hurting financially due to being limited to delivery and curbside pickup.

The funds will cover the app-related delivery costs they've incurred since public health orders forced them to shut down their dine-in business in November.

Kilgour said 65 per cent of Fionn’s business is through delivery apps — 50 per cent through SkipTheDishes.

"We can’t continue to keep paying out the high percentages that go to the delivery apps. This (funding) helps us be more profitable in a time we really need it," he said.

Jay Kilgour, owner of Fionn MacCool’s, says relief from the high costs of delivery apps, which is responsible for 65 per cent of his two restaurant's sales, is welcome. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Jay Kilgour, owner of Fionn MacCool’s, says relief from the high costs of delivery apps, which is responsible for 65 per cent of his two restaurant's sales, is welcome. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I’m thankful the government did this for us. I think it’s necessary and it will help us keep people employed and pay our bills."

Another restaurant in Winnipeg’s Exchange District is hoping this announcement helps get them through the pandemic without debt.

"It will go a long way, luckily we have amazing landlords, but we had a three- to four-month rent deficit we had to try and catch up on as well, so this assistance couldn’t have come at a better time," said Mark Turner, owner of Amsterdam Tea Room and Bar.

Turner added that the bar also applied for the Manitoba Bridge Grant, which provides a one-time $5,000 payment to small and medium-sized businesses that were ordered to temporarily close public access or stop operations because of the COVID-19 public health orders put into place on Nov. 12. As of Dec. 21, the province has given $43 million to 8,600 successful applicants.

"We had a three– to four–month rent deficit we had to try and catch up on as well, so this assistance couldn’t have come at a better time." – Mark Turner, owner of Amsterdam Tea Room

The Manitoba Bridge Grant’s funding was substantially higher than the province’s recent announcement, so Turner and other owners are not sure how this money will be divided.

"The Manitoba Bridge loan where all the businesses were getting $5,000, I think that program cost about $42 million, so I’m not sure how this $5 million is going to be broken down or how much assistance we’re going to get," said Turner. "But all assistance is amazing and much appreciated."

Another restaurant owner is skeptical about how much this new funding will help local restaurants.

"We’re cautiously excited. When we look at what $5 million will actually do, we aren’t exactly sure," said Chris Graves, owner of the King’s Head Pub. "… $5 million to most people seems like a lot of money but because it’s mostly for businesses that pivoted to do deliveries, that’s everyone in our business. Five million dollars divided between 2,000 businesses is just over $2,000 each."

King's Head Pub owner Chris Graves says there will never be enough support for his industry. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

King's Head Pub owner Chris Graves says there will never be enough support for his industry. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Graves said he is grateful the government is recognizing the industry and providing support. He added he’s excited the program will be created by the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce because they understand their business more than the provincial government.

"The support we’re being given right now is still not enough and it will never be enough I suppose. The fact that there is recognition that our business is being decimated and the fact that it is being recognized is productive," he said.

kellen.taniguchi@freepress.mb.ca